Facing environmental destruction and broken promises from the Canadian government, a local Pimicikamak community have evicted Manitoba's electric utility from the dam on Cross Lake. In a place where water is an integral part of social and cultural life, the community demands accountability for the harm that the utility has caused. In building relationships with his former neighbors, author Ali explores questions of land and power―and in remembering a lost connection to this place, finally finds a home he might belong to.
In search of belonging, a writer probes the past and present among the Pimicikamak in the Canadian North ... Spurred by these memories — so irrepressible in light of Ali's perpetual search for belonging — and by a sense of urgency, Ali returns to the region of his early childhood as a kind of quasi-journalist and an unwitting agent of hope ... Part personal narrative, part chronicle of history, Northern Light reads mostly as an in-real-time account of Ali's return to reacquaint himself with Cross Lake and its long-suffering yet gracious people. The effect is kinetic — the reading can be breezy ('the next morning is warm and sunny') and then downright slow, weighed down by the formal language of treaties, many of them broken ... Embedded in this overall effect, however, is the higher call to slow down and pay close attention to the injustices wrought upon the people of Cross Lake, including, as a result, its troubled youth. And to truly feel what it's like to be there, to reclaim a land that possesses you in return.
Kazim Ali’s eloquent memoir Northern Light reports on the complicated history of a Canadian landscape and its Pimicikamak residents, who endure human-made challenges every day ... This book began as a nostalgic inquiry into that place, but grew into an exploration of human connections to land and water, personal and cultural identities, and the meaning of home ... Lyrical motifs of stargazing, and of an origami crane that Ali carries as a talisman during his visit, enrich the book’s descriptive passages. Throughout Northern Light, Ali continues to reassess his understandings of his childhood memories and his reasons for returning to Jenpeg. The book’s open-ended questions, like 'What does it mean to be from?,' are resonant.
A world traveler, not always by choice, ponders the meaning and location of home ... Ali alerts readers to the First Nations’ struggles to fend off an open-pit titanium mine, a gas pipeline, and other water projects, taking care to include many Indigenous voices in his account. A graceful, elegant account even when reporting on the hard truths of a little-known corner of the world.